From a reader:
Jonah, you are a challenge!
Earlier today I wrote expressing objection to your throwing “existentialism” in with Progressivism and all the other foundational fascist philosophies. I particularly pointed out Tillich as someone who had shaped my thinking and values and asked if you included him in your rogues gallery.
Well, I kept reading and sure he enough his name popped up about a hundred pages later at the place where you were discussing religion and psychology and how they merged. You mentioned Erich Fromm but not Rallo May (unless I overlooked his name), who interestingly enough was Tillich’s shrink.
I agree these guys were liberals. But even a liberal can stumble over a truth now and then. They are descendant’s philosophically of Augustine and even Paul. They all had their moment on The Road to Damascus. What they chose to do after that awakening is one thing, the experience of the awakening is quite another.
You also mention Fromm. For me, his Escape from Freedom went a long way to providing an understanding of the German psyche between the wars. Their society had all but collapsed. Freedom to them had become terrifying. Many felt, as the old saw goes, that they were free to live under bridges. They fled from that sort of freedom, the freedom of personal responsibility, into the hands of the communists and the Nazis who offered more than a night in the fresh air. The price of those decisions did not dawn on them until it was way too late to do anything about it.
My point? I think you paint with too broad a brush when it comes to these people. Lumping them in with intellectually flaccid philosophers, cynics and some incredibly evil people does not wash for me.
But then again, maybe you are right and I am looking at this through the rose colored glasses I acquired during my formative years in the 60s and more particularly after my own trip down the Road to Damascus in the late 80s.
Well now I return to reading this book. My lysdexia (that’s a joke) makes me a slow reader.
PS – Did you hear about the dyslectic agnostic insomniac? He stayed up all night wondering whether there was a Dog.
Me: The reader misses a vital point. Again: Fascism was popular for a reason. It was compelling. It seemed to describe the world accurately. It’s intellectual influences were cutting edge. Of course some of the philosophers and intellectuals on the receiving end of my indictment were valuable and worthwhile.
Paul Tillich was a brilliant theologian. Erich Fromm had much to recommend him. William James was a profoundly decent and insightful philosopher. Even Richard Hofstadter was admirable in many ways — foremost his writing skill. And of course anyone who simply dismissed Nietzsche and Rousseau wholesale is making a grand mistake.
The tendency to say “my guys can’t be fascist because I like them” is precisely the tendency I want to destroy.